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Stanley Sheinbaum and the Struggle for Human Rights

Lawrence Bush
June 11, 2017

Peace activist and human rights advocate Stanley Sheinbaum was born in New York on this date in 1920. He began his work life as an economics teacher at Stanford University and Michigan, but quit teaching during the Vietnam War and made earning a living unnecessary by marrying into the Warner Brothers family and making savvy investments. In an activist career that spanned more than five decades, Sheinbaum organized the defense fund for Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times; met with Yasir Arafat to convince him to renounce terrorism and recognize the existence of Israel; served on the board of the ACLU; led the campaign to oust Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates when his officers beat Rodney King and Gates covered for them; helped convince the University of California to divest from South Africa's apartheid system; and served as a major fundraiser for Eugene McCarthy, George McGovern, John Anderson, Jesse Jackson, and Bill Clinton. "He also collaborated with Norman Lear . . . to create People for the American Way, a bulwark against the radical right on social issues," writes Bennett Muraskin in Jewish Currents. But his "most courageous and controversial act was his trip to Stockholm, Sweden in 1988, heading up a delegation of American Jews whose goal was to lay the groundwork for peace talks between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization. The result was PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat’s agreement to renounce terrorism and recognize the State of Israel, which led to the 1993 meeting on the White House lawn and the famous handshake between Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin."

"I think I did something that I would have done for any people, if I had the opportunity. And in this particular instance, I did it for Israel . . . These are my people and I’m not going to walk away.” --Stanley Sheinbaum

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.